Examining Kartini as a stunning Feminist Symbol : Indonesia on April 21st

Examining Kartini as a stunning Feminist Symbol : Indonesia on April 21st

Gender equality is perhaps the most vague issue to describe right now, you probably  don’t know where to start. This article helps you to start, from explaining feminism to feminist symbol. Feminism is a political ideology which basically, demands to define and establish the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes, especially for women. The ideology advocates gender equality through social movements, political movements, and ideologies.

In this article we ought to deliver the pioneer of feminism in Indonesia, Raden Adjeng Kartini, why she became a feminist symbol of Indonesia, Why and how Indonesians celebrate Kartini Day every April 21st.

Speaking of gender inequalities, you can read more in: Beware of Gender Inequality! 3 Types of Inequalities and the Struggles

Raden Adjeng Kartini

Born in 1879, she is well-known as Kartini, and she is an Indonesian famous activist who advocated for women’s rights and female education, exactly what a feminist symbol would fight for. She was born into an aristocratic Javanese family in the Dutch East Indies, and her father is the Regent of Jepara, the city where she was born. At that time, Kartini’s family were deemed to be prestigious among Jepara’s society, but that won’t stop her for embracing women of the lower class, like an excellent feminist symbol model.

Thanks to Kartini, women emancipation is made possible to grow up in Indonesia. As a woman of Javanese bloodline, she felt immense gender inequality in Java back then, as she felt that it need more equality to balance things out. Back then, it is a passed-down culture that women are not allowed to pursue career or education, they just live to serve the family, an exact opposite of feminism value. She is determined to prove that female is just as capable as men in many role.

With that, Kartini dedicated her life as an activist of feminism to make a change, which later we will thank her for becoming a great feminist symbol.

Kartini as a Feminist Symbol

 Kartini is determined to pursue her education regardless of her restrictive culture, she wants to be equal with men in terms of educational rights. The Javanese culture restrict her activity outside the household, including education. Even though with such condition, she didn’t quit and instead, make the most out of it by self-taught, reading, and exchanging letters with her Netherlander pen pal.

Kartini maintains a close relations with the low-class women she fight for all the time. She spilled her thought by her writing in a Dutch women magazine named  De Hoandsche Lelie. That is where everything started, from her writings she is stating her concerns about the conditions of peasants under Dutch colonialization, and restrictions for Indonesian women. From her publishing, the values of feminism begins to grow, the readers then see her as a model of women emancipation, feminist symbol of Indonesia.

One day, all of her writings in that magazine then compiled into one book titled “Door Duisternis tot Licht” or From the Darkness into the Light. Then, in 1922, those writings were re-published into her book with a title of “Habislah Gelap Terbitlah Terang” (Through Darkness to Light).

Remembering her goal to establish a better education for Indonesian women, she built a women-only school in the city of Semarang in 1912 with the help of her husband and Kartini Foundation. Her foundation keeps building school since then in many cities, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Malang, Madiun, Cirebon and more. She then died in September 17th 1904 in the age of 25, her life was short but it’s very impactful as a feminist symbol in the history Indonesian women empowerment.

If you’re interested in her writing and publishing, you might find them here in GoodReads

National Kartini Day

Remembering the feminist symbol, Every 21st April, schools celebrate Kartini's day and held a ceremony while they dress in traditional attire.

Image taken from Sekolah Notre Dame, Memaknai Peringatan Hari Kartini, June 23rd 2018

Indonesian president at that time, Soekarno, decided upon 21st April to be the national Kartini day, based on the presidential decree No. 108 year 1964 on May 2nd 1964. That date was chosen because she was born in April 21st 1879, the birth of Indonesian feminist symbol fighting against gender equality.

To celebrate Kartini’s day, students and teachers in Indonesian public schools will dress themselves with traditional attire from many different regions of Indonesia, instead of their regular uniforms. They will also be doing school ceremony and held an art show and performance to have fun.


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